And so more than two years after the referendum on leaving Europe, we find ourselves in a stasis, the country rudderless and in a state of paralysis. Theresa May, hallucinating on what power she has left, dragging her newly appointed Brexit Secretary – the ghastly Dominic Raab – from the driving seat like a Bond overlord dispensing with a useless henchman just before the boat plunges over the waterfall (or perhaps a more relevant metaphor, the train smashes into the end of the Euro tunnel). There have been other villains in this protracted saga which has made the economic downturn of over ten years ago seem like a fortnight’s holiday: Boris Johnson, a man whose ego and malevolent political ambition, a wolf in (woolly and faux-dithering, but ultimately calculating) sheep’s clothing – paraded in front of a bus that screamed how much money would go to the NHS if we weren’t in the European Union and then promptly resigned when he began to realise the full ramifications of the result, not that anyone knows truly what Brexit means more than two years down the line (well maybe Theresa May does, it means Brexit apparently).
And of course Nigel Farage, the former leader of UKIP – who also jumped ship when the ocean liner he was shunting in his negligible tugboat – suddenly gained pace and sped towards that iceberg field dead ahead… Let us not forget Michael Gove, the toadying, legacy-chasing politician who – manipulated by his Dacre-remunerated journalist wife – plunged the knife into Boris in a poorly timed and badly misjudged attempt at seizing power, like a banana republic guerilla without the ammunition or army to realise a coup. Maybe in appointing Johnson as Foreign Secretary – perhaps to go some way in atoning for the mess he had helped create with the Leave campaign – and bringing the duplicitous Gove back as Environment Secretary – Theresa May thought that keeping her enemies close in her cabinet was better than them pissing into the tent? The rich political soup that has been served (or forced down our throats) daily from the Whitehall-Brussells farce in the last twenty-five months must surely have given Armando Iannucci enough material to produce at least a couple of Brexit special episodes of The Thick Of It? We need Malcolm Tucker et al more than ever…
But let us not forget the true architect of the almighty mess we find ourselves in. David Cameron. Brexit was born out of political ego and posturing, with the promise that if the Conservatives won the 2015 General Election, the European Referendum Act would come to pass, a vote that he thought would appease the Eurosceptics in the party and the country. Drunk on the ‘success’ of the Scottish Independence result, he thought that his luck at the gambling table would simply continue with Brexit and in spite of Project Fear and all its agents, the many were hoodwinked by the few. The result on June 23rd 2016 showed a fractured country, and shone a light on how out of touch Cameron was with the public zeitgeist, giving a licence and legitimacy to the racists and xenophobes that either voted YES out of ignorance or desperation that they were finally being given a chance to ‘get their country back’, whatever that means. A result that had other nations scratching their collective heads at what people we actually are in the United Kingdom, the 3% margin (or 1.3million votes) being enough to tarnish the country as inward looking and regressive.
It is a decision that has created schisms throughout the nation and far beyond this little island in the northern hemisphere; the ‘little islanders’ that wanted ‘Great Britain’ back have caused the Great to drop off. Future generations have had their rights to travel freely in Europe rescinded by an older demographic that have had many decades of employment, pension schemes and the relative financial security that home ownership – a concept that will be unattainable to generations of young people – has brought them. In the surreal political landscape we now find ourselves in, Brexit ranks second (probably) to Donald Trump becoming the most powerful man in the world; which decision will history view as the most bizarre and ultimately damaging?
One thing history will record though is that Brexit is David Cameron’s political legacy; a mess that will take years for ordinary people and the country as a whole to emerge from, not only politically, economically but psychologically.
Cameron is now in the process of writing his memoirs in a specially purchased £25,000 shed on wheels, raking in the money from speeches while still refusing to acknowledge the miscalculations that led to Brexit: “it’s a mistake, not a disaster. It’s turned out less badly than we first thought.” But when you are insulated from reality by great wealth and trust funds, one more gamble is just another throw of the dice with no consequence.
In today’s skewed world order, even Danny Dyer seems to talking sense…